Along with disco dancing and the back end of the Vietnam war, card collecting was a big part of the 1970s. However, most weren’t looked after properly, which means mint editions are often hard to come by.
The 1970s is a decent place to start as a card collector. You don’t have to shell out compared to expensive pre-war sets, and they’re often more interesting than newer options.
We’ve looked through recent sales and auctions to bring you a list with ten of the most valuable 1970’s baseball cards to look out for, along with descriptions of how and why they’re worth so much.
Most Expensive 1970s Baseball Cards
Most are rare rookie cards, or they’re expensively priced because it’s almost impossible to find a copy in gem mint condition.
1979 Ozzie Smith Topps RC #116
Ozzie Smith was a shortstop, best known for playing in the ‘80s for the St. Louis Cardinals, but he actually started his MLB career in the ‘70s for the San Diego Padres, and it is his rookie Topps card from 1979 that makes this list.
Smith’s headshot is at the center of the card, and he is wearing Padres uniform as well as sporting some very questionable sideburns and facial hair.
This card does not grade particularly well, and this coupled with Smiths’ incredible MLB career results in a valuation running well into the tens of thousands of dollars for the card in gem mint 10 condition.
1974 Dave Winfield Topps
One of the greatest all-around athletes in history, Dave Winfield earned twelve All-Star selections and was drafted by four teams in three different sports. PSA 9 versions of Winfield’s 1974 Topps card can easily go for over $500, while a gem mint version went for $9,600 in 2017.
Reggie Jackson 1971 Topps
A PSA 7 graded version of Reggie Jackson’s 1971 Topps card recently sold for just $134, while a PSA 8 went for $1,275. The reason for the big difference in price is mostly because of the black background, which is notoriously difficult to find in decent condition. Jackson’s on one knee in the image, with two bats in hand. You’ll also be able to find a signature in black along the bottom of the card.
Nolan Ryan – 1975 Topps
Nolan “The Ryan Express” Ryan is one of the best power pitchers of all time. His 1975 Topps card is part of a two-tone set in which the corners are notoriously easily to scuff. As for pricing, a PSA 9 went for just over $2,000 late in 2019, while a PSA 10 sold for $31,200 back in 2017. They definitely don’t make cards like this anymore, although that’s probably a good thing considering how difficult they are to look after.
Bobby Bonds – 1976 Topps
A PSA 9 version of Bobby Bonds’ Topps card can be found in the sub-$100 range, but a grade 10 will easily sell for thousands. A recent example would be a gem mint edition sold on eBay for $2,817 in December 2019. The father of Barry Bonds, they hold the record for most home runs by a father-son combination. Bobby Bonds passed away in 2003.
George Brett – 1975 Topps
Coming in a strange green and purple two-tone, a PSA 9 edition of George Brett’s 1975 rookie card can easily sell for $1,800. PSA have set a guide price of $35,000 for a gem mint version, and one was sold for $11,500 in 2012. Brett is one of only four players in MLB history to have 3,000 hits, 300 home runs, and a career .300 batting average.
Jim Palmer – 1970 Topps
Jim Palmer’s 1970 card shows off the player mid-pitch, and the grey border makes it difficult to find a copy in mint condition. A PSA 9 could easily be picked up for under $300 a couple of years ago, and average prices are rising. For example, a PSA 10 went for $1,880 in 2008, and two sold for roughly $4,000 and $8,000 respectively in 2019. It’s an expensive card, but he is the only pitcher in history to win the World Series in three separate decades between the 1960s to the 1980s.
Dave Marshall – 1972 Topps
A player with modest numbers compared to others on this list, Dave Marshall’s 1972 Topps card can normally be grabbed for next to nothing, with a PSA 9 going for $175 early in 2019. However, there are hardly any PSA 10 versions on sale at any given time, so when one recently sold for $3,383, it marked a significant jump in their overall value. The sale also coincided with Marshall’s death in 2019.
Bert Blyleven – 1971 Topps
Bert Blyleven is a pitcher who ended his career as a two-time All-Star and World Series winner. Blyleven’s card has a black border, so prices begin to go off the charts when you get to higher grades. A PSA 9 went for a round $4,000 late in December 2019. Gem mint versions are even more expensive, and one sold for $15,052 via an online auction in 2012. As with the majority of the others, prices have increased in the last eight years.
Ron Cey/John Hilton/Mike Schmidt – 1973 Topps
This rookie card features three prominent players from the era in Ron Cey, Mike Schmidt and John Hilton. It’s recognised as Schmidt’s only rookie card, which is surprising as he’s one of the best third baseman of all-time. PSA 9 grades can easily go for $3,000, while a 10 recently went for $7,655. The Schmidt factor does make it slightly more appealing to collectors, as well as any Philadelphia Phillies fans. Despite being overlooked for some time, the 1973 rookie third basemen card is worth keeping an eye on.
Thurman Munson – 1970 Topps
Yankees catcher Thurman Munson was the 1970 Rookie of the Year, and won two World Series championships. He crashed a private jet while practicing taking off and landing in 1979, ending his career prematurely. It’s hard to find a mint copy, and that’s reflected in the prices at the upper end. While a PSA 10 sold for just over $13,000 in 2012, the amount jumped to $26,101 after a 2018 eBay auction. From his tragic death to his expensive cards, Munson is certainly one of the more interesting players from the era.
Most Expensive Baseball Cards 1970’s: Investment Outlook
Investment Rating: Strong Buy (4.6 out of 5)
Ownership Disclosure: None
Baseball cards from the 1970s are widely considered as the last of the vintage era, before the hobby was widely commercialised and transitioned to the modern era.
The ’70s were a great decade for baseball and it saw many historic moments, including Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record, and Pete Rose coming as close as anyone ever has to Joe DiMaggio’s record 56-Game hit streak.
The Cincinnati Reds, or ‘Big Red Machine’ as they were affectionately nicknamed are the most memorable team from the ’70s due to their big-hitting style and 2 World Series victories. Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, and the Pittsburgh Pirates also won multiple World Series, whilst the Baltimore Orioles also took one home.
These cards are not only now part of sporting history, but they are also bordering on being real antiques. They are the last of the vintage era and feature some true legends of the game, including numerous Hall of Famers.
Like with any antique, if you keep it in the mint condition it is value will remain solid, and even grow over time. Investments in ’70s baseball cards are as safe as investments come.